Traveling around to different stadiums and getting your first glimpse at a team’s home atmosphere never gets old. There’s still a few I need to check off — Seattle and Green Bay are at the top of my list now — but I always appreciate looking around and understanding what makes a stadium tick.
And I’ll never forget my first trip to Sun Life Stadium in South Florida. That’s where the Dolphins play, and I distinctly remember looking around in the home of this storied franchise and thinking two thoughts — 1. This is it? 2. Um, seriously?
It was half-filled by kickoff and there was no buzz inside the stadium. Outside the stadium, the team did this bizarre orange carpet deal (right), where celebrities were introduced like anyone cared they were there and glitz and glamor were highlighted before mentioning, “Oh by the way, there is a game.” That was the norm.
It was insanely lame. And when the Dolphins started sucking, it got lamer. I couldn’t shake the thought that owners Fergie, Serena Williams and the football people didn’t get it. I don’t know what it was about, but it wasn’t always football.
But the Dolphins are changing, and not just because they believe they finally have a QB to lead them. The decision last week to do HBO’s Hard Knocks only solidified it. And after reading this article by Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post, I had a scary thought — I think the Dolphins finally get it.
It’s a fascinating, in-depth article, with Volin focusing on the changing face of the Dolphins franchise and how they are battling back from years of ridicule by their own fan base. A team that perpetually put itself in a bunker is emerging from it with interviews, color, and some sound decisions about football and their brand.
What are the Dolphins doing?
Putting the focus back on the field by changing their message. Gone will be the commercials featuring dancing girls. Instead, as Volin writes, they’ll focus on what is really a tradition-rich history. One commercial will even have a player sitting in an ice tub for 30 seconds. It will be about football. And games. And history. And the product. Finally.
The Dolphins did something amazing, and after last season’s embarrassment, they reached out to their fans. They listened. They heard loud and clear that their base wanted less flash and more substance. They’re bringing back 1 p.m. games. They’re killing the orange carpet. They’re gonna showcase football.
Oh, and when they have something they need to explain, they are finally allowing intelligent GM Jeff Ireland to say it. In the previous regimes, he’s been kept from the media. That never made sense, as it allowed others to offer thoughts while Ireland never could.
“We can’t allow people who may not have the facts to shape public opinion,” CEO Mike Dee told the paper. “Jeff was ready for that next step, as well. He was tired of being beat up a little bit.”
It’s not gonna be an overnight thing. Opening the doors for Hard Knocks will only go so far in improving the brand and allowing the world to know a great dude and a promising coach in Joe Philbin. But it is a start. And for the first time in a while, the Dolphins are moving in the right direction.
Nothing is more important than wins. But if those do come, the Dolphins are primed to emerge from their funk and look like a real franchise again their fans can respect again. Good for their fans, great for the NFL. So, that’s something.